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Freight Train Derails in San Bernardino

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eighteen cars of a Southern Pacific freight train derailed Sunday in San Bernardino, leaving rail cars jackknifed and strewn in zigzags along the track, authorities said.

No one was injured in the earlymorning derailment that shut down the main north-south freight rail line from Palmdale to Southern Pacific’s huge freight yard in Colton, spilling building materials next to the rails. The line is not expected to reopen until late this afternoon at the earliest, a railroad spokesman said.

The cause of the derailment--the second in a week on the busy line--is under investigation.

The incident occurred about three miles from the scene of a spectacular derailment on the same track in May, 1989, when a runaway freight train barreled off the rails and slammed into seven homes, killing two trainmen and two children.

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Two weeks later, a 14-inch gasoline pipeline next to the track exploded, igniting a fireball that killed two people, injured 31, and destroyed or damaged 18 homes. Since the explosion, additional check valves have been installed along the pipeline, San Bernardino Fire Department Battalion Chief David Parke said.

After Sunday’s derailment, the Fire Department examined the 14-inch pipeline that parallels the track, transporting gasoline from Colton to the Las Vegas area.

Inspectors for Calnev Pipeline Co., which operates the line, were also checking the high-pressure pipeline, Parke said.

The 89-car train, carrying mostly plywood and lumber products, was en route from Eugene, Ore., to the Colton yard when two flat cars, 10 boxcars, three empty tank cars and three empty grain cars left the tracks.

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The first six or seven cars that derailed wound up in “a pretty neat little accordion"--some at 90-degree angles to the track--with the other cars tumbling off the rails in a zigzag pattern behind them, he added.

Fire officials said they had no idea what caused the derailment at mid-train, but Parke said the train may have been “dragging a car” to the rail yard, that is, pulling a car that has one set of wheels off the track.

The train was traveling less than 30 m.p.h. at the time.

Southern Pacific spokesman Mike Furtney said crews clearing the rail line are taking extra precautions to avoid damaging the pipeline.

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Last Wednesday, several cars carrying crude oil from Bakersfield to a Los Angeles refinery derailed a few miles to the south, where the rail line crosses beneath Interstate 10 near Colton. Furtney said that derailment resulted in the leak of about 100 gallons of crude oil.


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